I have stated many times my opinion that religious belief is a form of delusion that, for most people, is relatively harmless. Some folks get so wrapped up in their delusions, however, that it leads them to committing acts that are reprehensible at best and downright deadly at worst. Often when I write entries such as this the people I’m talking about are Christian, but it would be wrong to suggest that they have a lock on the deeply delusional marketplace of ideas.
Take for example this news item from the Houston Chronicle:
A southwest Harris County man who is accused of beating his 3-year old son said the child had been invaded by demons after he ate meat, a prosecutor said today.
[…] During a court hearing Monday morning before state District Judge Debbie Mantooth Stricklin, prosecutors said that Tran, a vegetarian, thought some meat his son ate caused demons to enter the boy.
“The defendant said eating meat will cause demons in the child,” said Assistant Harris County District Attorney Angela Weltin said during the hearing.
The twist here is that the father is a Buddhist which makes this case particularly odd. Those who know him say he just snapped. Apparently he’s been acting oddly for awhile now and had only just decided to become a vegetarian:
“Jacky thinks he’s an angel right now: that he’s sent by God to help everybody,” said Thuba To, Tran’s cousin-in-law.
Tran’s relatives and neighbors say the devout Buddhist had never shown any tendencies toward violence. The family has no record with CPS, and Tran appears to have no criminal record. Those closest to him believe something within him just snapped.
“He’s a very nice person, a very responsible husband, a good person,” To said. “I think he’s run into a problem with psychology.”
[…] Within the last week, however, neighbors noticed that Tran been acting strangely. On Wednesday, Badat said he spotted Tran carrying a Buddhist statue into his house and the next day he saw the man throwing almost all his furniture into his front and back yards.
The front and back yards of the family’s house were still strewn with broken furniture Sunday.
“He threw everything out, even valuable things, because he says they’re evil,” To said.
By Friday morning, Badat decided to check on Tran, who told him that the statue he brought home earlier in the week was possessed by a demon and that he had buried it in a cemetery. He also told Badat that the furniture in the home had also been tainted.
“He thought the demon came onto everything,” Badat said.
He decided during the week to become a vegetarian, eating only fruits and vegetables for days, his cousin-in-law said.
“He’s been Buddhist for many years, but not like this,” she said.
Buddhists typically eschew worldly goods and embrace pacifism and moderation. But Tran seemed suddenly to be taking his faith to extremes, neighbors said.
His toddler son was flown to the hospital where he was being treated for multiple skull fractures. When police arrived the unresponsive boy was being cradled by his mother in the bathtub. His face a maroon color and his eyes nearly swollen shut. His father denies hitting the child at all saying he had merely “knocked the demons out of him.”
If you accept the idea of demons and Gods and spirits and possession then everything the man did up to, and possibly including, beating his son should make perfect sense. If he truly believed his household furnishings had been invaded by a demon then throwing them out is perfectly logical. If he truly believed the Buddhist statue he brought home was possessed then burying it somewhere else would also be perfectly logical. As for beating his child to rid him of demons, I’ll admit that I’m not up on Buddhist exorcism practices, but it’s not like he’s the first person to try that approach. The point being that if you buy into the same or similar ideas, that supernatural forces are at work in the world and some of them mean to do us harm, then it’s hard to see how you can criticize the approach this man took or claim that he’s crazy in anyway. These “harmless” beliefs led directly to a purportedly good man—according to those who know him—committing a terrible act against his own child with nothing but good intentions on his part.
How can you call that anything but delusional?
Sent in by an SEB reader who didn’t provide a name for me to use in the email.